Thanksgiving Day, and I have an extra bunch of celery after making the stuffing, what to do with it? We were having a small dinner party, and I think it’s nice to have a little appetizer with your wine whilst waiting for the big attraction, the turkey.
I wanted to make something that would stick with the theme of the dinner. Usually, I stuff celery with blue cheese and cream cheese, but this time, I wanted something different. Stalk the pantry, and there, in the front, is a bag of dried cranberries. Perfect!
This was a real hit at our gathering. Thankfully, as chef, I made one for myself to taste test. Good thing, because I didn’t get one when I set the tray out – it was gone in minutes. My guests really liked them!
When you make this, please use the hearts of celery. If you cannot get hearts, then at least remove the tough strings. There is nothing more embarrassing than biting into a piece of celery and having strings hanging out of your mouth! Just take a knife, start at either end of the stalk, and pull the strings out. That’s better!
Now that it is officially fall, and the weather has turned “cold” in California, it’s time to have stew. Last week I made Coq Au Vin, and I still had some wine left, so I thought I should continue with my French comfort food and make this lovely Beef Burgundy, Boeuf Bourguignon.
Similarly to Coq Au Vin, Boeuf Bourguingnon is also one of those dishes that does well with tough meat, wine and long cooking time. The wine and long cooking time break down the meat so it is nice and tender. It also allows all the flavors to meld together nicely. Be prepared for this to simmer about two hours.
It is important with both dishes to get a decent red wine, not a sweet one! A nice Burgundy, Shiraz or Cabernet would do perfectly. You don’t need much, so there should be a nice glass or two for the cook, too.
Coq Au Vin is really peasant food. Originally, it was made from an old chicken, and the wine was there not so much for flavor, but the soften the old bird up. It took a long time to cook, but the flavors were wonderful, so it became very popular. Of course, Julia Child made it famous. Her version was much simpler because people could buy a young chicken at the market, and did not have to wait until old Bessie was ready to kick the bucket.
I haven’t made this dish in years, not because it is difficult to make, but because I never seem to have all the ingredients together. It is actually pretty simple to make, just takes a little time because the flavors need to marry.
I had originally intended to make Boeuf Bourguignon, but we had Shepard’s Pie last night for dinner, so I was thinking I didn’t want to have beef again so soon. So, I actually went on Facebook and asked whether I should make Boeuf Bourguignon or Coq Au Vin. The consensus was chicken, so I started getting the ingredients together. The only thing I did not have was pearl onions, and not because I hadn’t tried to get them at the market, they just didn’t have any, so I used a regular onion and cut it into big pieces instead.
With just the two of us, a regular chicken is just too big, so I started buying Cornish Hens. They come two to the pack, at 1 1/2 pounds each. One half bird is enough to feed one person. Cornish hens taste just like regular chickens, and are not baby chickens. For more information, please see the Wikipedia article on Cornish Game Hen.
I love barbecued chicken, but barbecues have been outlawed in our city, so I am stuck with less conventional ways of barbecuing. Last year, I bought a cast iron grill/griddle just for the purpose of barbecuing steaks and making pancakes. It also does a fine job with chicken, and I use the top of my wok to cover foods so they can completely cook. Of course, I have to have my windows wide open, and I shut off the bedroom where the fire alarms are to prevent them from going off. My grill/griddle is easy to clean, just put it in water while it is still warm, but not hot.
I used Hoisin sauce, because my son had expressed a desire for Chinese food the day before, but you could use whatever barbecue sauce is your favorite. I served it with Same Day Fried Rice and we had ourselves an Asian feast!
Chinese Stove Top Barbecued Cornish Hen YouTube Video
I love fried rice! Plain rice at the Chinese restaurant just doesn’t thrill me as much as fried rice, with all the goodies. If you get the Yang Chow fried rice, it comes with chicken, pork, beef and sometimes, shrimp. It’s my favorite, and quite often, all I will get because it is a meal in itself.
The secret to good fried rice is using day old rice. So you have to make extra rice if you want fried rice the next day. That means rice twice in a row, and either I don’t make enough, or I just don’t want it twice in a row. This is a problem, but I have found a solution.
The solution is to use pre-cooked rice that comes in a bag. Uncle Ben’s makes one, and it works perfectly. That way, you can have fried rice any time you want to, as long as you have the pre-cooked rice on hand, you’re good to go.